While I enjoy the company of lady folk, small children, puppies and the elderly, sometimes a guy just needs an old-fashioned dudes night out. So it came to pass last weekend that a small group of my testosterone laden friends got together for an epic evening. While many people may imagine a dudes night out to include cases of Budweiser, a game of poker and/or young ladies trying to pay their college tuition through erotic dance, my friends are a little more civilized…well maybe civilized is taking it too far…but there were no strippers.
In life its important to choose your friends wisely, and I’m lucky enough to have friends who know how to cook and like good wine. So it was that we gathered at my friend Dave’s house for a delicious feast free of any fiancée’s, girlfriends and babies. We also left out one un-invited guest…moderation! After all including moderation in a dinner party is like inviting your mom along on a date, a lot more awkward and a lot less fun.
Bellavista Franciacorta Brut non-vintage, an awesome traditional-method sparkling wine from Northern Italy. You can never go wrong starting a night with some bubbly and a big bottle makes it just that much better. The first appetizer came compliments of yours truly, a delicious combination of dried mission figs stuffed with goats cheese and almonds, wrapped in bacon and broiled until crisp. This was delicious (if I do say so myself) and only confirmed the idea that pretty much anything is better with bacon. Jeff Jamieson came to bat with some of the best ribs I have had in a long time, boiled and rubbed with his proprietary blend of spices. A Saskie who can cook something other than beer-butt chicken and eggo waffles, who knew?
Our local Italian Stallion Dave served up his famous Gnocchi for the next course. This edition featured an amazing blue cheese and Grappa sauce, finished off with chives and chilli flakes. This was absolutely unreal, with the spice from the pepper flakes perfectly complimenting the richness of the blue cheese sauce and the grappa adding just the right amount of kick. This is a complex and assertive dish, with strong salty flavours courtesy of the blue cheese and a good amount of spice. I brought one of my favourite wines in the world and it worked beautifully! The 2006 Donnhoff Schlossbockelheimer Felsenberg Riesling Spatlese (how’s that for a mouthful?) turned out to be the perfect accompaniment to the dish and ultimately the wine of the night. This mind-blowing Riesling from one of Germany’s most iconic produces was out of control, with mouth-watering notes of ripe apricot, peach, honey, fresh-cut flowers, slate and the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity. Epic!
Due to the fact that none of us wanted to follow-up Dave’s culinary mastery, he also provided the next course. This vortex of tastyness featured fresh veal, pounded and breaded with a side of amazing green beans (I will have to ask Dave how he prepared the beans as they were equally delicious). The fresh veal was pan-fried to perfection with a crisp exterior and moist/juicy center. So good in-fact that we each had two servings (did I mention the absence of moderation?). To accompany this we had two amazing wines. First Dave chipped in with a 2007 Williams Selyham Sonoma Pinot Noir. This was a real treat as these wines are extremely sought after and can be hard to find. This showed why 2007 was such an exciting Pinot Noir vintage in California, with lush notes of fresh strawberry, cherry, cinnamon, clove and vanilla. Amazing for its purity, power and depth! Second Jeff brought a 2003 Ogier Cote-Rotie. After approximately three hours in the decanter this outstanding wine started to show its pedigree with lifted notes of white pepper, cured meat and lavender accompanying the deep blueberry core. A sensual, seemless wine demonstrating the perfect marriage of terroir and quality winemaking.
With all of that food in the books we decided it was time to start winding it down and taking it easy. Well we thought about taking it easy, and proceeded to devour a massive cheese platter instead! Sound logic indeed. To accompany our selection which included items such as piave, brie and stilton along with fresh honey from Dave’s uncles bee farm and fig jam, we indulged in a bottle of 2003 Domaine Weinbach Gewurztraminer Furstentum Grand Cru Cuvee Laurence (another tongue twister). This showed why Alsace produces the world’s greatest examples of Gewurztraminer with rich notes of honeysuckle, ripe apricot, peach, candied ginger and spice. Perfect with the cheese!
As the night wore on the sheer mass of food and quantity of wine began to take its toll. Although our bellies were full and our wits sluggish, we powered through for the final course. It was the Frenchman’s time to shine and he came through with shining colours. Making a near perfect Tart Tatin, a classic French dessert which is basically an upside down apple tart, Frenchie even managed to avoid the usual plume of smoke that normally accompanies the carmelizing of the sugar, butter and apples. I had decided to kick things up a notch and get a little experimental with the last pairing. Much to the delight of the crowd (those booze hounds!) I pulled out a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle Special Reserve Lot “B” Bourbon. The rich buttery notes and sweet caramel notes from this exceptional Bourbon married perfectly with the rich pastry and sugary goodness of the dish. A touch of water helped to soften the alcohol and allow the complex aroma’s and flavours of the spirit to sing through. An extremely enjoyable pairing and proof that sometimes it pays to step outside the box.
With marathon of gluttony complete my content compatriots and I slumped heavily onto the couch to bask in the warm glow of inebriation and reflect on the meal. It’s times like these that serve as a reminder that life is about creating experiences, and that great food, wine and friends help to turn those experiences into memories that are truly priceless.
Until, next time, remember that sometimes nothing can beat an old-fashioned dudes night out!